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Athletes

May 07, 2018

Black Diamond Drops Joe Kinder

Joe Kinder, a professional climber, has been removed from the Black Diamond team for violating their zero tolerance policy towards bullying.

WRITTEN BY

Himraj Soin

Since this article was first published, The Outdoor Journal has been in contact with the relevant parties. This is a developing story, and as such, the article was updated at 05:45 UTC on 16th May 2017.

Sasha DiGiulian, a professional climber and writer, called out fellow climber Joe Kinder on his social media bullying, mostly targeted towards her. This had been ongoing for several years and previously, Sasha had tried to address the issue offline, but Joe did not respond. Joe had a private meme account on IG, where he would post inside jokes making fun of friends. In one post, he posted an image of Sarah Sapora—a well-known public figure who focuses on wellness and self-love. Her main goal is “to show other women that they are visible, valuable, and have the ability to be the ‘hero’ in their own lives”. The now deleted meme was made at her expense. Sasha has been very vocal about body image issues and eating disorders, speaking from personal experiences she has had to overcome. This has sparked a debate on the effects of cyberbullying, eating disorders, gender inequality, and the role and responsibility of professional and influential athletes. Joe has issued an apology that has been accepted by Sasha.

On May 3, Sasha called attention to this issue on her Instagram:

As a community we need to uphold ourselves to higher standards than permitting defamatory, assaulting behavior. I use my social media platforms to share a window into my life- both professionally and personally, yet I also believe that this channel is a platform to have a voice and stand for what I believe in. This includes spreading more love and taking a stance against bullying. I am hurt and broken hearted to say that I am a victim of a bully and it has crossed the line. I write from the hospital, where I sit praying for the health of my family. I have received many messages about the ridicule that someone has made about me and my career. I have tried reaching out maturely, with no response. I find it incredibly sad that he has chosen this road. Perhaps because I am an independent female who has made a career out of my chosen path that irritates him? The second photo in this slide is one example of a reference he has made to me and Edu going to the Verdon, which I had to cancel due to my Grandma’s health. At the root of a lot of evil is insecurity. There is a line at which enough is enough, and I do not find it okay that a man can act like such a child, nor target women in such a vulgar way as he has done. I have chosen to write about this because while joking banter can be light and entertaining, this is not “light” content. This is malicious and ongoing. Behavior like this has dire consequences on the victim, including eating disorders, the perpetuation of gender inequality, and a misrepresentation of the pillars that I am proud that our community stands for. – Update I’ve been in touch with Joe and he’s taking steps to fix his problems. He deleted the meme account and has apologized in both my and his social accounts. Personally I’m accepting his apology and would encourage all of you to do the same. This includes his sponsors who I know are aware of the situation and I’m sure he’s feeling the heat from that angle. Ultimately I want our community to be better, to respect people of all strengths, shapes and sizes for who they are. As athletes, lets use our platforms for good and work hard to push the limits of what us humans are capable of.

A post shared by S A S H A • D I G I U L I A N (@sashadigiulian) on

To this post, Black Diamond responded: @sashadigiulian and the greater climbing tribe, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. At BD, we have and always will support ALL women in the climbing community. From our amazing female athletes, to the women’s specific gear we design, our stance has and will always be to support and value women.

Pro climber and The North Face athlete Emily Harrington responded: This is a really valuable conversation to have right now. And respect to you sasha for having the courage to bring it up under some pretty personal and hurtful circumstances. Not many of us would have the courage or know where to begin. Respect. I’m sorry it came to such a painful place though and I sincerely hope good can come from this. That everyone can be better and kinder humans as a result. Big love to you and especially to your fam right now .

Mountaineer and TNF athlete Conrad Anker responded: It takes strength to speak out. Thanks Sasha for being a beacon of positivity. May our community learn and make steps towards integrity, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and humility. Be good, be kind, be happy.

On May 4, Black Diamond Equipment dropped Joe Kinder from their team:

On May 3, Joe posted an apology:

Social media has been an awesome way for most of us to reach one another on so many levels. My career has changed immensely with the ease of sharing stories to motivate or inform audience. It can be used in great ways or harmful. I’ve always had a bit of a harsh sense of humor as I grew up a skater-kid punk. I’d rile my friends with pranks or nicknames, as it was done out of love. Fast forward to my adult years and I still enjoy joking and never taking ourselves too seriously but there’s a point when it’s too much. Bullying or harmful content is nothing I’d like to be connected to and I’m not proud to have offended people. For a few months I had a private account that would include a small group of people on inside jokes and memes poking fun at people. (It’s deleted now so no need to search it out.) I went overboard and would like to publicly apologize, Sasha, I’m sorry. I respect women and support our current era for our women as we’re in a historical moment of time. It was not pro, kind, human, or yielding of anything positive. Social media is great and I want to share content to inspire and not cause harm. The brands I work with support women on a major level and I’m dang proud to affiliate with that. My actions are by me and I own it. I apologize to anyone that was hurt by my tasteless acts, I’m learning from this. -joe (Above are photos of people I respect and who teach me to be a better person)

A post shared by Joe Kinder (@joekinder) on

To this, Emily Harrington responded: I’ve known you since I was 14 dude. You’re like an older brother to me and I know your heart is big and in the right place. Insensitive jokes, hurtful actions, and mistakes happen, sometimes in public and sometimes not. We’ve all been on both sides of it. Sasha’s decision to call you out was her way of calling attention to an important issue and dealing with the pain it caused her. Respect for that. And yea it sucks that it had to come to this but it did and here we are. Your response was well thought out and I know it was genuine (because I know you). Good conversations should and will come of this. Let’s all be kinder, better, and give a little more love now.

Sasha responded: I really appreciate your apology Joe. My intention was not to publicly denounce you for an image; it was the pattern Our behavior towards others has consequences on our self-esteem and relationship with ourselves and the community. Now we are communicating publicly and privately and I Wish before we could have been speaking privately too; I did reach out. This can all be flipped around in a positive light as I see working together on a societal issue and deconstructing the negative is the way forward.

Sasha’s last update came from her manager, Luke Tipple:

Good morning everyone, Sasha is with family in the hospital right now saying goodbye to her Grandmother. She’ll be back on social media in the next couple of days but in the meantime she’s asked me as her manager to issue a statement on her behalf. First of all she wants to thank everyone for their support of her decision to speak out about bullying. The situation is unfortunate and it’s important that you all understand that it wasn’t just one post or one snarky meme, this was an ongoing problem over several years that affected Sasha as well as several other female athletes. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to settle this privately but the attacks kept coming. Sasha made a difficult and brave decision to speak out publicly knowing full well that she’d be subject to backlash and victim shaming. This brought accountability and voice to an issue that was not otherwise stopping. Sasha is in touch with Joe and has accepted his apology. She also spoke to Black Diamond and encouraged them not to drop Joe as an athlete. Their decision to do so was not desired, but is in line with the ethics and morality clauses in all professional athlete contracts so their actions have to be respected. On a personal level guys, this world is changing for the better thanks to people like Sasha who are brave enough to take a stand against bullying. It sucks that it’s resulted in a respected athlete learning some hard lessons, but hopefully this is something the entire community can benefit from eventually. We’re in touch with Joe and will assist where possible to mitigate further damage. On a final but equally important note, Sasha has been in touch with the woman that was used to poke fun of. Her name is Sarah and you can go to her Instagram at Her and Sasha agree that body shaming is not okay and we all need to accept who we are and to speak up for ourselves and others. @sarahsapora

A post shared by S A S H A • D I G I U L I A N (@sashadigiulian) on


Her manager, Luke Tipple, sent The Outdoor Journal a statement from Sasha:

I agree that social media should not be the standard by which we solve our problems. And here, yes, after attempting private reconciliation, I stood up for myself on my platform. I respect that each person will have an opinion and vocalize it; I hope that you can respect that I have an opinion of my own as well; that is to be held accountable to your actions and to recognize the privilege that we have as professional athletes.
We have an opportunity to hold ourselves to a higher standard. And I am sorry that this comes with such repercussions.

As representatives of our community, we should not spend our extra time being adults that pick fun of other people for no reason but to laugh at them without them knowing.
I don’t stand for just passing my time climbing rock and giving nothing back to society.

And I’m sorry to some that we may forever disagree on these points.

Maybe it could have gone a different way. And it’s important to pull those things into question and think about it. That’s how we grow. That’s how we learn and that’s how we become better in the future. There are always multiple approaches to any one problem. But I chose the one I chose for a good reason. And that is, after attempts to privately reconcile the problem, I shared what was already online. If we refuse to call a bully by their name we continue to allow them the undeserved power they continue to abuse.

My actions were thought out and considered. I asked advice and picked my words carefully. And now what is done is done. This isn’t life ending. We don’t even know that’s it’s career ending. It just forces change and accountability. Joe has a lot of growing up to do; as do we all, and if he had learned these things earlier on than this would have never happened to begin with. His actions are his to own, not mine to excuse.

On May 7, La Sportiva dropped Joe Kinder from their team:

On May 14, Joe Kinder issued another apology.

I made a mistake. A mistake that has cost me my livelihood as a professional climber, and hurt the feelings of someone who I’ve known for more than 10 years. I blame no one but myself and I own my mistake. Climbing has been my family, my home, and my inspiration for more than 25 years. I’m going to do everything I can to earn back the respect and the trust of the tribe. I’ll need some time to work through all of this, but I’ll come through it a better person—because one of the lessons climbing has taught me over the years is to never give up. I have apologized for my mistake and learned a very hard lesson—about myself and about others. I’ve chosen not to respond to the mistruths or rebut the misrepresentations about my mistake that have been broadcast as fact, chosen not to share my version of what happened, because in the end there is no excuse, no defensible explanation for my mistake. There will always be a place in this world for humor, but not for humor that causes hurt. Hopefully we can all grow from this, can all learn to be better to each other, can all be more understanding. I know I will. To those of you that I hurt or disappointed, I am truly sorry. To those of you that have expressed compassion and understanding, thank you for the support. And now? Now, I’m moving forward, starting a new chapter in my life, humbled but not defeated.

A post shared by Joe Kinder (@joekinder) on

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Adventure Travel

Jul 11, 2018

The Mountain Monks of Montserrat – Exploring History, Legends, and Great Climbing

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WRITTEN BY

Apoorva Prasad

Apoorva Prasad, The Outdoor Journal Editor-in-Chief, recounts a climbing trip to Montserrat in 2009, where he followed in the footsteps of the mountain monks of Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey.

A small boy scrambled up the rough rocks, yanking at tough brown shrubs and grabbing the pebbled conglomerate of the rocky Catalan spires. His sure-footed goats had already reached a large clear ledge above. He gasped with the effort and tried not to look down. It was late afternoon and he had to gather his flock and drive them homewards soon. He mantled up to level ground and looked around. There they were, near a large, dark-mouthed cave. He yelled at them, the stupid creatures. He spoke only Catalan, a language native to these wild, mountainous parts between France and Spain. And then, the woman emerged.

She was dark and luminous. She was haloed by light, a strange sort of energy exuding from her, illuminating the entrance to the cave. He felt something touch him, a sort of blessedness. And then he fainted.
So was born the legend of the black Madonna.
Fast forward three hundred years. A large monastery and church stand on that ledge, surrounded by thousand-foot high spires of rock. There are two ways to the monastery – a winding mountain road, or a cable car. Today, like most days, the road is closed due to rockfall. The cable car has limited running hours – and we barely catch the last one up, with the lone operator holding it for us.
Montserrat – Jagged Mountain in English  – is a four-thousand-foot high plateau composed of reddish pebbly sedimentary rock needles that reach up into the sky, with holds that seem like they’ll pop out the moment you pull on them. Pinnacles emerge from the jumbled matrix, cliffs, and aretes that soar over the surrounding countryside.

More than a thousand routes spider the mountain. There are barely enough climbers here. When I was there, it seemed possible to spend a whole day climbing thousand foot classics without ever meeting another party – in near-perfect temps, even in February, the month of my first trip here. This is the warm, beating heart of Catalan mountaineering.

It was a warm late February day, and we had been completely alone so far. The only other people we’d seen was a small group of climbers hiking ahead of us on the trail before they disappeared into the brush as we detoured towards the base of our route. Even though we were barely a 40-minute drive from Barcelona, it felt like wilderness climbing. The overgrown brush covered everything. It is an incredible sensation, to know that there is real adventure all around us, so close to established urban centres. There are ibex and wild boars in the forests in and around the mountain, and we walk carefully to not disturb the peace and natural beauty of this place.

The base of the route appears suddenly from the green brush. Vegetation ends and rock begins. The sensation is familiar and reassuring. The first part is not-yet-vertical, but real climbing nonetheless. I like to lead first pitches, since I haven’t yet had the time to feel scared and I can bluster my way through, while the ground seems reassuringly close – which in reality makes no difference to any real or perceived danger, of course. The route is mostly bolted or marked with old pitons, there is little scope for natural protection.

Climbing slowly, we reached halfway up. I was belaying my partner Gilles, a Franco-Australian climber I had met some years ago in India. The route is considered the area’s classic and most popular climb – the 5.10a+, 11-pitch, 1033 foot (315m) Aresta Ribas. The Aresta – “arete” – first climbed by a certain Ribas in 1979, is the prominent spur of rock on the sunnier, south-facing side of the mountain – perfect for a winter climb. Despite its ranking, there is literally no-one else on the climb. For comparison, a 3-star multi-pitch classic like this one nearly anywhere in the United States or even in the French Alps would literally have a queue of climbing parties on it.

Suddenly, an old man in a blue sweater appeared to my right, climbing in what looked like sneakers. As I watched, their party of three appeared one after the other, traversing to our belay station, moving much faster than us. The leader was a younger man, the only one who spoke English. That was how I met Josep Castellnou, a local who told me stories of this amazing history of Montserrat. Josep, a vet from a nearby town, also managed rocktopo.com – a climbing site extolling the virtues of the natural park of Montserrat, with downloadable guides for each part of the mountain. [Ed: unfortunately the site is no longer online, but some topos are still available elsewhere].

“You are visiting here?” said Josep, casually while on lead. I was well secured in my belay anchors.
“Yes”, I replied, shielding my eyes from the sun while paying out rope to Gilles.

“Good!” he said, smiling. “But you will not know how to find the trail down. We will wait for you!” he exclaimed, before setting off again.

Their party was doing a route just adjacent to ours, and flying on it. I cherished such encounters in the mountains – in every way a normal social interaction, but between two strangers clinging spider-like to a vertiginous mountain wall. These meetings sometimes lead to lifelong friendships, and one can meet again decades later with the same sense of warmth and gratitude.

The climbing was unexpectedly difficult. The holds were rounded cobblestones emerging from a matrix of hard sediment, requiring you to balance your toes on rounded surfaces, with no real edges. I needed to think about footwork before making each move, which meant our progress was very slow. The route was series of spires stacked one upon the other. An immense panorama behind us gave me a massive sense of exposure, a feeling of stomach-churning, calf-tightening vertigo that kicks in when you can only see the air above, below and behind you. Eagles rode rising thermals, balancing motionless with outstretched wings on waves of invisible air. They nested on the cliff walls, and climbers were under strict instructions to leave certain areas and routes alone in this protected Park Natural de la Muntanya de Montserrat.

A young fresh faced Editor-in-Chief, Apoorva Prasad

The climbing took nearly the whole day. We reached the top as the sun began to set. Gilles and I quickly began to coil the ropes and switch out our rock climbing shoes for hiking footwear – wearing rock shoes the whole day is an incredibly painful experience, for those who haven’t yet tried it. Josep and his party were patiently waiting for us at the top, just beyond and below the ‘summit’ of the arete. I was warmly surprised, they must have reached at least an hour before us. They smiled and greeted us again, and rather quickly now, given the fading light, led us towards climber’s left, towards whatever path there was. Within some minutes it became clear to me that we would have never found it on our own, especially in the dark. The trail down was a complex, hours-long scramble over water-worn rock and incredibly dense brush, and not really a proper ‘trail’. If we hadn’t run into Josep’s party, we’d have probably spent the entire night cautiously hunting for the way down, having heard enough stories of climbing parties lost on descents upon being cliffed out, or going over an edge in the haze of fatigue, in darkness.

A little while later Josep pointed out a cave.
“You see these caves? Monks used to live here and meditate. Now climbers use them. They spend the year just living here and climbing”.
So medieval Benedictine monks had faded away, replaced in this new age by climbers, similarly meditating on paths to salvation amongst spires reaching up to the sky. Who were these 21st century rock-climbing monks? I was eager to find out, but tracking these unknown climbing hermits, seekers after greater truths… was not going to be easy or feasible.
The sun had already set below the horizon, we were hiking down in the twilight, and could barely see the trail. Yet I paused to look inside the cave. It was a small nook in the rook, just enough to serve as a passable campsite sheltered from the rain, to lay a sleeping bag on the uneven ground, a mendicant’s bowl on a rock ledge, perhaps a worn book. For a second, I closed my eyes and imagined that life. Then I heard the group outside, patiently waiting for us to follow that hidden trail, and I stepped back into the fading winter light.

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